How the Desire to Learn Spanish Changed My Life

This week we caught up with Noe Rivera, the Co-Field Director of Adventures in Missions’ new base in Guatemala to ask him a few questions about his story and the vision of the Guatemala team.

Noe Rivera has played every role imaginable in the World Race. He’s been a Racer (on the January 2010 M Squad), a raised up squad leader, an alumni squad leader (on the January 2011 T Squad), a trainer, a squad mentor and a field support staff member. All told, Noe has been directly involved with 26 World Race squads over a three-year span.

And now he’s playing his newest role – World Race contact.

  At 28 years old, after seven years in the corporate finance world, Noe was ready for a change. He found the Race, and it sounded like exactly where God was leading him:

“I had always wanted to serve the Lord around the world, but to mix adventure with serving him was even better. When I found the Race it was the perfect mix. You get to travel, but it’s also doing it for God, for the kingdom.”

He did the Race, came back to squad lead, and eventually came on staff at the Adventures in Missions home office in Georgia.

For several years, Noe thrived in his leadership role with the World Race staff: “As hard as it was, I really do appreciate the challenge that the Race provides. Sometimes they throw you into the deep end, and you learn how to swim while you’re swimming. They trust young people to lead and do big things because they trust God. You’re not stifled, you’re not held back, you’re trusted with a lot.”

He learned about leadership, trusting God, and hearing his voice. It was a time of great challenge and deep growth, but in the summer of 2012, Noe began to feel unsettled.

“You just feel that unsettledness inside you, like something needs to change. It’s not that you’re not happy, but you know something is coming that’s different. Even though I loved working with the Race, I felt like something new was coming.”

 As he prayed through his options for what was next, Noe couldn’t get the idea of learning Spanish out of his mind. 

“I’m half Mexican, half Puerto Rican. My parents are both fluent in Spanish. There was something inside me that didn’t like the culture – I think it’s because I didn’t feel fully part of the culture because I didn’t speak the language. Among Hispanic people, you’re not considered part of them if you don’t know the language. You’re always on the outside. I had never learned the language, and I realized I didn’t want to die without knowing Spanish.”

So he kept his ears open for opportunities to serve in Spanish-speaking countries, and soon he heard about the new base Adventures in Missions was planning to launch in Guatemala.


“I remember being at World Race Launch in January 2013, walking to my hotel room God started to speak to me. He said, ‘It’s time to go home.’ I knew that meant it’s time to go be with my people, and a peace overwhelmed me. Guatemala wouldn’t necessarily be my home forever, but that’s where God was saying to go, so that became home.”

Noe ended his time with the World Race, packed up his life, and left for Guatemala with 11 others and no return date.

They moved to Antigua, Guatemala with the vision of establishing a discipleship and training center for Americans, Guatemalan nationals, and anyone else who wanted to be mobilized to go serve the nations. 

Since February 2013, the Guatemala team has been putting down roots in their community. They’ve built a home where people can come rest in God’s love, live together, learn to hear the voice of the Lord, and follow his lead in ministry.

“In the morning as a whole team we get up and worship, read the Word, and set the tone for the day. Then we go over who is meeting with who, who is hosting someone in the house, who’s having coffee with Diego, who’s visiting Claudia and Edith, who’s going to go visit a local ministry. We split up, do our day, and come back together for dinner. We cook together and come around the table to eat together every night. 

“There is no day in the life. Everyday is different. It’s a great opportunity because you’re never bored or stagnant, but it can be a challenge because no two days are the same.” 

As their team has grown and their vision has solidified, the Guatemala team has begun to host World Race and World Race: Gap Year teams. They’ve become a place where Racers can go to rest and rejuvenate, and they’ve also begun to partner with World Racers in ministry in Guatemala. 

The team has started scouting other areas of Guatemala, looking to establish contacts and ministries in other parts of the country. In hopes of doing more outreach in Guatemala in the near future, they’re partnering with World Race squads.

“The Race will be the outreach arm. We’ll see where God is moving in Guatemala, send the Racers out to talk with people and build relationships, and because we live there we’ll follow up and establish a long-term relationship.”

After having worked in every possible position in the World Race, Noe is loving his new roles as a member of the Guatemala team and a World Race contact. 

“The exciting thing about this is that it’s all brand new and in progress. It’s exciting to be part of something that’s being birthed as we speak. God’s hand and his Holy Spirit are fresh and so present here. His hand is doing something, and it’s exciting to be part of that. To think that five years from now we’ll be able to look back at this time and see how crazy and challenging it was, but also how amazing it was to be part of something that has the potential to impact the world by setting up bases and mobilizing not only Guatemalans, but Racers and nationals from all over the world.”

 You can follow the Guatemala team and the work God is doing on their blog or through the Instagram handle @journeysguatemala.

 Photos via Justin Marshall, @journeysguatemala, @elizabethhanisch, and @kimmayann

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